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2012 College Football Week 5 Recap, Analysis: Penn State vs. Illinois

After a shaky 0-2, the Penn State Nittany Lions appear to have found a winning formula and are hitting their stride 5 weeks into the season.

With wins against Navy, in state “rival” Temple and most recently Illinois, Penn State looks to be on track for a successful season, much of which has to be credited to stellar coaching, poise from a senior quarterback and solid defensive play.

Matt McGloin threw for a touchdown, rushed for two more and the Penn State offense rolled through a feeble Illinois defense. McGloin, along with Michael Mauti, has set the standard for the Nittany Lions  through the first 5 weeks of the season. Deemed a leader during one of the most difficult off seasons in Penn State history, McGloin seems to have focused on just winning football games.

He’s thrown for 10 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, and moved the ball down the field week after week for Bill O’Brien’s offense. Last year, McGloin was struggling to find his groove on game-day as he split time with now LSU quarterback Rob Bolden.

However, since becoming the full time starter, the senior quarterback has showed significant progression and has become the offensive leader. Along with the progression of McGloin, the Nittany Lions have re-established a power running attack. Zach Zwinak rushed for over 100 yards on 19 carries and added 2 touchdowns in the win against Illinois.

Since the departure of Silas Redd, the questions about the Penn State running attack have been answered. Along with Zwinak, senior Michael Zordich, Bill Belton and Derek Day the running game has been effective through the first few weeks of the season, today rushing for 173 yards.

Another major part of why Penn State has won 3 in a row is the play of the defense. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof, along with linebacker Michael Mauti, have led an inspired group of players week after week. The Nittany Lions have yet to allow a touchdown in the first half of play this season

Mauti, who ran one of his two interceptions 99 yards to the Illinois 1 yard line, is the unquestioned leader of the defense. The senior linebacker has been very vocal since the off-season about playing inspired football.

Against Illinois, the defense allowed just 7 points and was in the face of Fighting Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase forcing him to complete just 28 of 46 pass attempts and throwing 2 interceptions. The defense allowed just 74 yards of rushing and held strong all day.

When Bill O’Brien took over a few months ago, Penn State Football was in turmoil. After starting 0-2, the Nittany Lions have gone on a 3 game winning streak and answered questions about the program.

If Penn State can keep up this level of play, fans everywhere will be rooting for O’Brien to win Coach of The Year. It is still early in the season, but Penn State appears to have found a winning formula.

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